Goals and Accountability

How many times have you and a friend, family member, or colleague plotted and planned to be eachother’s accountability partner for a certain difficult task?

You come up with strategies to encourage one another, discuss what will be the hardest part and how you will overcome, and agree to daily (or more often!) check-ins by text.

Some examples of these goals:

  • Losing Weight
  • Exercising X times per week
  • Sticking to a budget
  • Eating clean, or following a specific eating plan
  • Starting a business
  • Writing a book
  • Studying for a test or going back to school

And then how often are you 3 days in, and suddenly your accountability partner and you have switched to bonding over the weight that hasn’t been lost, rationalizing why you only made it to the gym once, or agreeing that yes, that was a GREAT sale at your favorite store, so we’ll just work on the budget next month.

It turns out that keeping your goals to yourself is actually a more effective way to reach them.

You see, when you discuss with someone else, whether it’s a friend or posting your goals on social media, you get validation and a feeling of accomplishment, without ever actually doing anything.

When you get praise or encouragement for making goals, your brain is conditioned to make more goals rather than actually accomplish them.

When you hold off and either tell people about your accomplishments rather than your plans, you are being conditioned to feel good about your actual accomplishments.

Related studies: 

A 1933 study showed that when people were noticed for their progress on a certain task, the self-motivation decreased to finish that task once interrupted. (source)

A study on goal-theory shows a difference in the ‘intention-behavior gap’ based on whether goals are noticed by others or kept quiet. (source)

How to use this information in your life

Do: Ask for help if you need help with technicalities of things such as the correct way to exercise, what resources are best for eating clean, or what schools or classes are recommended.

Do make a plan for yourself. Do keep a log of results(adults can have star charts too!) to see what you have already accomplished.

Don’t: Tell a friend and spend lots of time and excitement in the ‘planning’ phase of reaching your goals. Don’t announce plans such as weight loss, resolutions, or eating healthy, bringing your grades up, or starting a business on social media.

Do: Announce your accomplishments afterwards- it can be as simple as a snapchat to a close friend that yes, you actually did fold and put away all the laundry, or as detailed as scheduling a book tour as your book has been sent off to publishing.  If you have followed a clean diet for 30 days, post what you did on social media, I’m sure lots of people will love to know how you did it and what you gained from it.

You don’t need to keep quiet forever, just keep quiet as long as you are still setting up your habits and working on your goal. People want to celebrate with you, just save it for the after party :)